Amanda was a good student, except when it came to chemistry.
Junior year at Wissahickon High School, she sat behind Matt, who was acing it. "I would ask him for help with labs we were doing, or with classwork, and he wanted no part in helping me," she said.
Matt said he and his lab group were hardworking and diligent, while Amanda, who "has the gift of gab," was likely to be chatting with everyone in the room, Matt said. "When it was time to hand in her lab report, she would flash her big, beautiful, brown eyes and solicit help." Matt resisted.
But in the middle of senior year, February 2006, Amanda and her friends wound up at a party at the home of Matt's friend Chris. Amanda saw Matt as she had never seen him in chemistry class: laughing and joking. The two groups of friends began hanging out together.
Toward the end of the school year, Amanda had to bake cookies for a class party, and invited Matt to assist. They got sweet on each other over the chocolate chips, and started dating.
Two months later, he headed to Penn State to study finance and she to Virginia's James Madison University to study psychology.
Neither had a car, but Amanda met a James Madison student engaged to a Penn State student who was happy to take her to State College in exchange for gas money. Amanda and Matt saw each other every other month, plus holidays and breaks.
It was a happy time. Then one morning in the summer after sophomore year, Amanda woke up and couldn't walk. She was soon diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
Amanda now manages her condition very well, but it was a scary diagnosis to get. Matt's support brought them closer.
Both studied in London spring semester of their junior year, enjoying the city and seeing each other every day. Their relationship grew even more serious, to the point where it scared them. They wondered if high school sweethearts who were still so young should really be headed toward marriage.
When they came back to the States, Amanda and Matt broke up. They were still best friends, and talked regularly, even as they dated other people. Almost a year later, Matt attended Amanda's graduation. They hung out in Harrisonburg, Va., until it was time to head to State College for Matt's graduation.
By then, the old feelings were bubbling up, big time, but each was afraid of hurting the other. Matt had just been hired by Johnson & Johnson, and was heading to Florida for a month of training. They decided not to talk until he got back, see how that went, and then decide to either just be friends or get back together for good.
"We really missed each other," Amanda said. By the end of the summer, they were a couple again.
Matt went back to Jacksonville for his finance job. Amanda began teaching prekindergarten at Wayne Presbyterian Nursery School and started master's classes at Villanova. They saw each other once a month until J&J transferred Matt to New Brunswick, N.J., in June 2011.
How does forever sound?
The winter before Matt moved back to the Northeast, his dad, Robert, came to visit him in Jacksonville. Over beers, Matt told him he was thinking of proposing. Robert reminded him that Amanda would be joining the family on their summer trip to Bermuda, and an idea was planted.
One day early in the Bermuda trip, Matt had arranged for a romantic dinner for two on the beach, but it got rained out. "I had this ring burning a hole through my pocket," he said. So when the rain stopped, he suggested a moped ride up to the lighthouse to watch the sunset.
The couple, who are now both 24, walked toward the edge of the cliff to look out at the ocean. Amanda was transfixed by the sun setting on the yellow, pink, and green houses, and the yachts on the water.
But when Matt began talking about their relationship, she stopped taking pictures to look at him.
"Matt was on one knee holding the ring out, like in the movies," she said.
"I love you. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Will you marry me?" Matt asked.
Her reaction was "part laughing, part crying, part screaming all at once," Matt remembered. "But in between a muffled laugh and cry, I did hear a yes."
It was so them
During the ceremony, Amanda's brother-in-law, Josh, gave the homily. Josh, who is married to the bride's sister, Chrissy, spoke of the couple's love of travel — something they've done a lot of, having lived in the same city for only about two years of their relationship. He spoke of their faith in God, and their faithfulness to each other.
The travel theme showed up at the reception as well. Instead of numbers, the tables were named after places the couple has been together. Each of their 180 guests got postcards that directed them to their tables.
From the first day of their engagement, Matt and Amanda knew they wanted a big brass band. During "Love Train," the 10 members of Groove Place Band came onto the dance floor and formed a circle around the couple. Their friends and family formed a second, dancing circle around the band. "It was a cream-of-the-crop moment," Amanda said.
This was unexpected
The wedding took place during the Main Line Jazz & Food Festival, and a stage was set up in the church's parking lot.
After the ceremony, a festival organizer invited the couple on stage. The band played "At Last" while Amanda and Matt had their first dance as a married couple in front of hundreds of festival-goers.
The couple danced into the reception to "I Feel Good." When they reached the dance floor, Matt picked Amanda up and twirled her around. With her dress swirling behind her, all Amanda could think was, "I can't believe we finally get to live together forever. This is awesome."
Later on the dance floor, "with all our friends and family surrounding us, and the woman I care about most in the whole world, everything felt perfect," Matt said. "I could not have asked for anything more."
A bargain: the cake from Hollywood Confections, which cost about half as much as cakes from the three other bakeries considered, and was delicious.
The splurge: the band. "We wanted somebody who was really going to bring down the house, and these people did," Amanda said.
Eight days in Antigua, followed by a move to Jacksonville, where Matt continues to work for J&J, and Amanda is a counselor at a local elementary school.
Behind the Scenes
Pastor Casey Thompson at Wayne Presbyterian Church, Wayne
Wayne Presbyterian and the Philadelphia Country Club, Gladwyne
Philadelphia Country Club
Jordan Hayman Photography, Philadelphia
Scott Rowland Videos, Lansdale
Bijou Bridal, Ardmore
Ginnie Tietjens, who works out of her Zionville, Pa., home.
SGS Paper Company, Glenside
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